A hung parliament? It might be the best we can hope for

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A long and uninspiring election campaign comes to an end. The latest polls suggest that the best renewable energy and the climate can hope for is a hung parliament, given that the Coalition has given no indication it has moved beyond the Abbott era.

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Read also: How to vote renewables in Saturday’s poll; The potential implications of the federal election for clean energy;  and Big utilities may push for another RET review if Coalition wins.

2016 elections

Nearly three years ago, on the eve of the last Federal election, this web site warned that a Tony Abbott-led Coalition government presented a grim outlook for clean energy and climate change, and we warned too that it could be even worse than most people feared.

It turned out that we were right. And the outlook for the current election is similarly grim, whatever the optimists want to think about Malcolm Turnbull and his ability to swing the far right of his party. There is nothing, in the party’s policies or rhetoric, that suggests a change from the Abbott era.

carbon repealAnd what did the Abbott era deliver? The carbon price was trashed, the renewable energy target was effectively brought to a halt and then cut savagely, Direct Action was introduced and promptly handed out a billion or two to projects that were mostly already happening, the Climate Council was abolished, and the Climate Change Authority was ignored.

Abbott has gone and been replaced by Turnbull, sparking hope of a change for the better. But Turnbull’s past – including his pledge to never lead a party that did not take climate change seriously, and even his support for 100 per cent renewable energy proposals – are now but a distant memory.

Turnbull did not even bother to release an energy policy in this campaign, but it is still the Coalition’s intent to strip the remaining $1.3 billion in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (if it can get approved in the Senate).

It will also retain Direct Action and its world-trailing emission reduction targets, and wants voters to “trust them” when it comes time for a review next year. Only the Clean Energy Finance Corp has been saved, mostly it seems to serve as some sort of giant pork-barrell for election promises.

The rhetoric is also little different. Australia, Turnbull says, will not do more on climate change until others do. Any proposal to increase Australia’s targets and to strengthen renewable energy targets – including by Labor and the Greens – are met with Abbott-style scare campaigns about soaring costs.

The renewable energy target remains stuck in the stalls. The Coalition now declares itself to be a supporter of “renewable energy” but – even if it wanted to – could not find a single photo of a wind farm or solar farm that it has caused to be built in its three years in office.

barnaby white rock wind

The best it could do is to show a photo of Barnaby Joyce “turning the sod” on a wind farm near Glenn Innes, a 175MW project that he has had to embrace – despite his dislike of wind farms – because it is in his own electorate and he is facing a tough contest from independent and former member Tony Windsor.

And so we go to the polls again. The polling and the pundits suggest a tight race, with the two main parties running neck and neck, with a big potential increase for small parties and independents, encouraged by the low hurdle of a double dissolution.

The pundits favour a small majority to the Coalition. Turnbull is supported by both the Murdoch media and Fairfax (the Australian Financial Review, the Age and the SMH). The Senate is anyone’s guess, with minor parties and independents likely to attract at least 20 per cent of the vote.

The Greens remain the only political party with the policies that resemble the science, and match the ambition and the reality of what is happening overseas, as the major economies put the brakes on fossil fuels, and coal in particular, and fast-track investment in wind, solar and storage.

They propose ambitious renewable and carbon abatement policies, incentives for battery storage, community energy and solar for public housing, and a transition plan for affected coal communities. No one else comes close, and yet The Greens are branded as “extreme”, even as their policies are the very same adopted by major international companies.

shorten royalla

Economists and  businesses talk of the huge opportunity that Australia has in leading the world when it comes to renewable energy, but while Labor has embraced this at a sub-national scale – the ACT’s 100 per cent renewable energy target, South Australia’s world leading push into wind and solar and Victoria’s recent embrace of a zero emissions target – its federal body seems strangely cautious.

True, they have a 45 per cent emissions reduction target that is the minimum needed to get close to the Paris target, and it proposes a 50 per cent renewable energy target for 2030.

But it also favours the removal of $1 billion in ARENA funds, and it has been reluctant to make climate and clean energy a major issue a big campaign bogged down by the minutae of future budget numbers.

That seems a waste in an election campaign where all the surveys point to massive support for renewable energy. Survey after survey point to overwhelming support for solar and other renewables, for more biting policies to save the Great Barrier Reef and to address the risks of climate change.

The Greens are expected to retain their numbers, but their influence over the Senate may be diluted by the gains made by the Nick Xenophon Team.

Xenophon supports higher renewables and emissions reduction targets, but he has a thing against wind energy. It is not clear to what extent he will be a help or a hindrance, or even if he will give the issue much thought.

Glenn Lazarus may also be returned, which will be a potential plus for renewable energy. But then so too may Jacqui Lambie (with a running mate) and Pauline Hanson. And that would be bad.

It seems, then, that the best we can hope for in this poll is a hung parliament. If Labor wins the lower house, hopefully it will push forward with its policies with vigour and have the Greens and other independents in the Senate to keep it honest, and on track.

If the Coalition wins the lower house, then the hope is that there are enough votes in the Senate to stymie the worst of its policy atrocities, because there is nothing to suggest that Turnbull has the ability, or even the will, to sweep aside the protestations of the hard right of his own party and the Murdoch media.

And if that’s the case, then Australia’s renewable energy industry will become almost entirely dependent on state-based policies – the initiatives set up by the ACT, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.

That may just suffice for now, but the states, and the regulators, will need to be strong as they face up to the extraordinary market power of the energy oligarchs, who exercise almost complete control over market pricing and are already pushing for a review of the renewable energy target.

What the industry really needs is a clear national strategy. But barring a major surprise tomorrow, it won’t occur any time soon.

That leaves individual household and businesses, and local communities, to do what they can. Hello more solar, hello storage.



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  1. Brunel 4 years ago

    The most important thing that the Greens should demand is that AUS move towards having taxpayer funded elections.

    I do not know how stupid Josh Frydenberg is, but he said on TV very recently that coal is a cheap source of energy in India.

    I think he was probably paid to say that?

    There is actually a drought in India and thus a few coal power stations have shut down due to a lack of water. Fancy that.

    And solar power in Dubai is of course US 3c/kWh.

    • john 4 years ago

      Correct he did say that and with landed coal from the Carmichael Basin being at over $70 a tonne good luck with that project it is never going to fly.

    • Pedro 4 years ago

      Agree you 100% on that one. We have to get corporate vested interest out of politics

  2. Rod 4 years ago

    I’m afraid you are right. I wonder how long before the Mad Monk topples Turnbull.
    When I look at ICE TV’s most popular TV for the past Month, top of the list is Houserules!
    The nearest show that would inform the public about anything useful, Mad as Hell, comes in at 13th.
    Says a lot for the intelligence of you average Australian voter.

    • john 4 years ago

      Frankly i find Rush the funniest program on TV.

      • Rod 4 years ago

        “Rush follows the lives of members of the prestigious Tactical Response
        team (TR), which is based on the real life Victoria Police Critical
        Incident Response Team, a highly mobile unit that fills the operational
        gap between general duties police and the SWAT-like Special Operations
        Group. The team is seen responding to violent incidents such as
        carjackings, suicides and armed offences”

        Doesn’t sound very funny to me. I might be missing something?

        • john 4 years ago

          Oops big mistake it is Rake i should have said.

          Now Rake a whole different situation a totally dysfunctional person who somehow or other usually gets out of a jab and survives.
          Try watching one of the episodes they are well worth it.

    • MaxG 4 years ago

      What intelligence?
      I am glad I arranged my life as I need it, and no longer give a thing.

      • Rod 4 years ago

        Like you Max, I have taken steps to be more self reliant in energy, water, food etc. but unfortunately we need Federal Governments for the big picture stuff like Public Transport, Health, Defence. The COALition is not good for our health and to see them giving money to the big polluters irks me but doesn’t seem to rate a mention with many voters.

        • MaxG 4 years ago

          is unfortunate that politics permeates our life, whether we like it or
          not. As such, it is intertwined with my life; however, from today
          onwards I will try to ‘ignore’ politics as much as I can tolerate. In
          principle: the system is rigged towards the incumbents; the people are
          stupid; or shall I say the majority; neither polies nor people
          understand what needs addressing, nor is there a vision for the future.

          as a root-cause analyst and systems thinker: the problem originates way
          back… pre and post war WWII; it started with US foreign policy,
          followed by free trade, then neoliberalism. The latter is grabbing hold
          of everything, and is destroying the
          very fabric of society. — There was this 14yo on some TV singing show
          in AU; when she was asked to sing a song from the Beatles, she said she
          never heard of them. The same with politics: why would anyone believe
          for a second that people would understand what paved the way for today,
          when “it” happened before they were born. Then add the people who lived
          during these times, but never understood what was happening either.
          … why I no longer give a thing; it is pointless.

    • Ian 4 years ago

      An ugly American with big ears and a bad beard, said ” Democracy is government of the people, by the people ,for the people” Australians work hard, are educated and are very responsible and careful about their personal, family and national lives. They are very intelligent and trustworthy, they will vote as they want to vote, thank you very much.

      • Rod 4 years ago

        Full Definition of intelligence
        1 a (1) : the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations : reason; also : the skilled use of reason (2) :
        the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to
        think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (as tests)

        Unfortunately, I don’t think that applies to the average Australian voter.

        Lincoln also said. “Upon the subject of education,…., I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in.”

        I don’t consider shock jocks, the Murdoch media or reality TV an ideal source of educational information.
        I would highly recommend a B grade movie called “Idiocracy”
        “Mike Judge makes his second directorial foray into live-action comedy with IDIOCRACY. When a none-too-bright fighter pilot volunteers for a military experiment that propels him 1000 years into the future, he finds himself in a dumbed-down society in which he is the smartest member.”

  3. Chris Fraser 4 years ago

    The test is tomorrow … Good luck Tony Windsor, good luck all the Independents and all the minor parties that believe. Hope your faith is rewarded by us electors.

  4. onesecond 4 years ago

    Vote Green! If you don’t believe change is possible, then change will truly become impossible.

  5. Pedro 4 years ago

    I think it looks like a narrow victory for the LNP in the lower house with many more cross benchers in the Senate. This would be considered an appalling result for Malcolm Turnbull, and I can not see him lasting out the next year as PM. We are likely to get Abbott back. With any luck the Renewable Energy Party may get a significant proportion of the Senate vote and prevent the worst that the LNP can do.

    • john 4 years ago

      I think your more than likely correct as Malcolm has corrected some of the derisive output from his party, however I feel Abbott has no chance of making a comeback.
      If the Liberals were to turn back to him it would be a very poor and myopic vision held view indeed of the party.
      I do not think the Renewable Energy Party will get anyone elected.

      • Pedro 4 years ago

        I think you are right John about the Renewable Energy Party. The party was too new to gain the grass roots support it needed. With our limited financial resources, lack of campaign experience and the time frame to build a campaign I think we did OK in WA at least. It has given me encouragement to carry on for the next election and I for one will be much better at it.

        Overall I am delighted with the election result so far. The LNP and its policies have been rejected although not for the reasons I had hoped for. And the double dissolution election called by Turnball has backfired on him spectacularly.

        • john 4 years ago

          Very true on all counts.
          It definitely was not the best decision however the projection of support from the polls was down from the high Malcolm had when the took over so he took a punt and it worked out badly.

          • Pedro 4 years ago

            I was so hoping that Turnbull could change the direction of the LNP with regards to Climate and RE policy, but it was clear 3 months ago that he is not the leader we need.

    • Analitik 4 years ago

      What do you offer over The Greens besides vote dilution?
      Anyway, there were loads of new “parties” on the senate ticket with Climate Change and Renewable Energy as core pollcy areas and none achieved anything of substance and The Greens have lost a senate seat.

      Meanwhile, One Nation has a definite senate seat and possibly 2 more – does this tell you anything about the views of the wider population?

      • Pedro 4 years ago

        The REP is pro solution. As a party we focus on solutions to climate change and will not be distracted by other divisive political stances. And lets face it, you can not sort out climate change unless you have a planned phase out of burning fossil fuels. The FF generators are not the enemy, they are going to be part of the solution after all they have all the expertise, infrastructure and resources to make the change. they just need to change trajectory.

        As for One Nation they appeal to a certain segment of society who are ignorant of and fear people of different culture and race. These issues have been whipped up by the media for the past 15 years and as yet I doubt Australian can have a truly rational and sensible debate on refugees. I will say that if you think the refugee issue is a big problem now, just wait until sea level rises 1 meter, there will be up to 150 million displaced people. Just in our region we are looking at many Pacific island nations that will simply disappear. Those people will have to go somewhere and I hope, not in Australian detention centers.

  6. MaxG 4 years ago

    This: ‘The Greens are branded as “extreme”, even as their policies are the very same adopted by major international companies.’ is very true, and sad at the same time… also related to not having a voice… with the corporate press bashing every thing that is actually good for the public.

  7. Robert Comerford 4 years ago

    Unfortunately Tony Windsor got wiped out. The amount of pork barreling in the New England and the constant recorded phone calls from the LNP must have had an effect. And the dirt thrown at Tony with some very expensive slick TV ads that said nothing about policy had to have an effect. Maybe the best that Tony can hope for is that he forced the LNP to make a rash of promises they will now be held accountable for.
    Hopefully the LNP has to rely on independents so issues get examined on their merits again.

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